« PreviousContinue »
that Walton had some inheritance in the fame of Thealma. If applied merely to the writer of the scanty preface which we have extracted, they are little better than absurd; but, if written in the belief that Walton was the real, but concealed author, if not very apposite, they are, at least, intelligible.
The internal evidence in the poem itself is strongly corroborative of our opinion. The simplicity and bon-hommie which characterised the life and writings of Walton are every where perceptible. The kindliness, the pastoral taste, the keen enjoyment of rural sights and sounds, the tolerant piety, of the author of the Angler, pervade equally the Thealma and Clearchus. It is just such a poem as Walton might be expected to write : it has no turbulent energy of thought or action-it has no strongly marked characters-it displays no insight into the darker passions of the soul-it is modest, gentle, unambitious -and glides along as calmly and unobtrusively, as one of those placid streams by which old Izaak loved to sit and rumi
-"with his Bryan and his book."
To prove that Walton had enough of the poet in him to produce the Thealma, we need only appeal to his Angler, a work instinct with the pure spirit of unconscious poetry, and which "scents all the year long of June, like a new-made haycock;" a work which has delighted thousands who never handled a fishing-rod, imparting dignity and interest to the minutest details of a pursuit, singularly barren of excitement, and clothing it with "an ineffable charm which cannot be effaced."
The data on which we have founded our opinion of the identity of Chalkhill and Walton, it may be said
but, taken together, we think they almost amount to demonstration. The non-existence of the author of Thealma, distinct from Walton; the mysterious silence of his editor, and the guardedness of his praise; the exact similarity of their tastes, feelings, and sentiments; their mutual extravagant passion for angling; altogether-in the absence of even a shadow of proof to the contrary-satisfy us, that Chalkhill is no other than our old piscatory friend incognito.
But to escape from controversy to the more refreshing part of our task, the examination of the poem itself. As the story is without a conclusion, we shall not enter at much length into its details, but content ourselves with giving a slight outline, which may serve to connect and explain the extracts we intend
The scene of the Thealma and Clearchus is laid in Arcadia, the primitive state of which country is thus beautifully described:
"Arcadia was, of old, a state,
Subject to none but their own laws and fate:
Was then not heard of; he that was most poor
An iron age succeeds to this golden one. Ambition, ava
rice, and luxury, introduce tyranny; and at the time the story commences, the sceptre is swayed by "a hot-spur'd youth, hight Hylas." Thealma, the daughter of the King of Lemnos, flying from her father's court with her lover, Clearchus, is shipwrecked on the Arcadian coast. Clearchus is supposed to be drowned; and Thealma, taking refuge in the house of a shepherd, employs herself in tending his flocks.
"Scarce had the ploughman yoked his horned team,
Down in a valley, 'twixt two rising hills,
Hight Cygnus; (as some think from Leda's swan
To feed her milky droves, and as they brows'd
Under the friendly shadow of a beech,
She sate her down; grief had tongue-tied her speech,
To hug those woes which in her breast were pent.
'O, my Clearchus,' said she, and with tears
Or souls departed condescend so low,
Than the low shrubs, that no such shocks endure,
Had drown'd my cares, or sweeten'd them with dreams:
Love and content had been my music's themes;
Or had Clearchus liv'd the life I lead,
I had been blest!'
While she is discoursing of her griefs with her maid, Ca
a fell boar
Rush'd from the wood, enrag'd by a deep wound
The sheep ran bleating o'er the pleasant plain,
They are rescued from destruction by the arrival of a huntsman, who kills the enraged savage.
"He was but young, scarce did the hair begin
This stranger turns out to be her brother Anaxus, who had left his native land in search of his mistress Clarinda, whose father had been banished from Lemnos by the king.
the fiery sun
Went blushing down at the short race he run;
The marigold shuts up her golden flowers,
The Arcadians, driven to revolt by the tyranny of Hylas, choose for their leader Alexis, a foreign youth, who had distinguished himself at their festive games.
"He had a man-like look, and sparkling eye,
So well compact, and sinew'd in his joints.
But that which crown'd the rest, he had a tongue
Hylas meanwhile was occupied with other cares. He had been smitten with the charms of Florimel, the daughter of Memnon, a Lemnian exile, and after several ineffectual attempts on her virtue, had had recourse to violence, but was prevented, and obliged to save himself by flight from the rage of Memnon and his followers. Before Memnon has time to escape from Arcadia with his family, Hylas returns and surrounds the house with his troops. Memnon contrives to conceal his daughter in a hidden apartment, and, on his refusal to discover her retreat, Hylas, enraged, orders the house to be set on fire. At this moment intelligence is brought of the insurrection, and Hylas hastens to oppose the insurgents. He is defeated and slain, and Alexis is chosen king.
Anaxus taking leave of his sister proceeds in search of his Clarinda retreating into a forest for shelter "gainst the sun's scorching heat,"